6 New Albums We Insist You Listen to Immediately

“Remember, remember/the hits of September,” is a famous quote that we are absolutely misremembering. But it’s an apt expression nonetheless, seeing that this month heralds the arrival of several great records, from smoothed-out R&B epics to artfully calibrated pop-romps to indie-rock epics. Here are six albums we’ll be playing for the rest of the yearand beyond.

Frank Ocean, Blonde

Admittedly, Blonde (Blond?) shouldve been on ourmust-play list in August, but since Frank Ocean decided to surprise-drop this one on a random Saturday last month, were including it here. Were also including it here because to ignore what will likely be one of the best albums of the year would be criminal. Ocean has always lived on the edges of contemporary pop/R&B, but with his latest, hes proving hes a genre unto himself. On Blonde, ethereal beats meet lush melodies and lyrics that cover everything from romantic sacrifice (Siegfried) to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (Pink + White and Nights). The album has a huge host of contributors (only Ocean can get Beyonc to sing back up), but this is a pure Ocean album, through and through. Angela Watercutter

Credit: Boys Don't Cry

Admittedly, Blonde (Blond?) shouldve been on ourmust-play list in August, but since Frank Ocean decided to surprise-drop this one on a random Saturday last month, were including it here. Were also including it here because to ignore what will likely be one of the best albums of the year would be criminal. Ocean has always lived on the edges of contemporary pop/R&B, but with his latest, hes proving hes a genre unto himself. On Blonde, ethereal beats meet lush melodies and lyrics that cover everything from romantic sacrifice (Siegfried) to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (Pink + White and Nights). The album has a huge host of contributors (only Ocean can get Beyonc to sing back up), but this is a pure Ocean album, through and through. Angela Watercutter

Carly Rae Jepsen, EMOTION Side B

When Carly Rae Jepsen released EMOTION last year, it was one of the most surprisingly perfect pop records in a long time. Songs about boozy nights, dance floors, and unrequited love were stacked one on top of another and each had more hooks than a tackle box. Its hard to believe there was anything great that didnt make it into Jepsens last record, yet here is Side B. It doesnt have quite as many certified gems, but with head-nodders like Fever and the melancholic melodies of tracks like Roses, its clear Carly Slay is on her way to being a sure-fire pop master. Angela Watercutter

Credit: School Boy/Interscope Records

When Carly Rae Jepsen released EMOTION last year, it was one of the most surprisingly perfect pop records in a long time. Songs about boozy nights, dance floors, and unrequited love were stacked one on top of another and each had more hooks than a tackle box. Its hard to believe there was anything great that didnt make it into Jepsens last record, yet here is Side B. It doesnt have quite as many certified gems, but with head-nodders like Fever and the melancholic melodies of tracks like Roses, its clear Carly Slay is on her way to being a sure-fire pop master. Angela Watercutter

Usher, Hard II Love

Ever since Usher’s chart-burning, “Yeah!”-inducing 2004 mega-smash Confessions, the 37-year-old R&B champ has fooled around with everything from EDM to dubstep, resulting in several great singles but occasionally scattershot albums. The excellent Hard II Love retains Ushers genre-futzing wanderlustcheck the sinister synths on the Young Thug collaboration No Limitbut also finds him happily showing off his pure pop-soul prowess: Missin U has a horn-borne, Steely Dan-swiping chorus thats pure 70s AM gold, while the falsetto come-ons and cascading melodies of Crash would have fit right in on Confessions. Its his most cohesive, multi-layered record in yearsand one youll wanna take nice and slow.Brian Raftery

Credit: RCA Records

Ever since Usher’s chart-burning, “Yeah!”-inducing 2004 mega-smash Confessions, the 37-year-old R&B champ has fooled around with everything from EDM to dubstep, resulting in several great singles but occasionally scattershot albums. The excellent Hard II Love retains Ushers genre-futzing wanderlustcheck the sinister synths on the Young Thug collaboration No Limitbut also finds him happily showing off his pure pop-soul prowess: Missin U has a horn-borne, Steely Dan-swiping chorus thats pure 70s AM gold, while the falsetto come-ons and cascading melodies of Crash would have fit right in on Confessions. Its his most cohesive, multi-layered record in yearsand one youll wanna take nice and slow.Brian Raftery

Cymbals Eat Guitars, Pretty Years

2014’s transformative, trauma-stricken LOSE found Cymbals Eat Guitars making the leap from way-decent guitar outfit to forward-thinking, fawn-worthy Great Indie-Rock Hope. Pretty Years is even better: A gorgeous, multi-chromatic collection that plunders and celebrates nearly every strain of post-60s rock and popsometimes all at once, as with the Cure/Crazy Horse team-up Finally, or the sax-squawking, ethereal Wish, which sounds like Born to Run-era Bruce Springsteen on a bender with Brian Eno. Its all anchored by frontman Joseph D’Agostinos deeply personal, decidedly of-the-moment lyrics, as confessional and cryptic as a late-night LiveJournal entry. Pretty is pretty much my favorite rock record of the year.Brian Raftery

Credit: Sinderlyn

2014’s transformative, trauma-stricken LOSE found Cymbals Eat Guitars making the leap from way-decent guitar outfit to forward-thinking, fawn-worthy Great Indie-Rock Hope. Pretty Years is even better: A gorgeous, multi-chromatic collection that plunders and celebrates nearly every strain of post-60s rock and popsometimes all at once, as with the Cure/Crazy Horse team-up Finally, or the sax-squawking, ethereal Wish, which sounds like Born to Run-era Bruce Springsteen on a bender with Brian Eno. Its all anchored by frontman Joseph D’Agostinos deeply personal, decidedly of-the-moment lyrics, as confessional and cryptic as a late-night LiveJournal entry. Pretty is pretty much my favorite rock record of the year.Brian Raftery

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Skeleton Tree

To no ones surprise, the 16th album from Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds is grim. Thats in the dark soul of the group. But Skeleton Tree, largely written and produced after the death of Caves 15-year-old son, is unusually raw in its grief. The lyricism and quavering sound of Cave & the Bad Seeds are strongest when covering bleak themessin, retribution, theatrical moralityand from the slow swell of Distant Sky, featuring the ethereal voice of Else Torp, to the synth-pop I Need You, Skeleton Trees reckoning with that dark place is worth the listen.Charley Locke

Credit: Bad Seed Ltd

To no ones surprise, the 16th album from Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds is grim. Thats in the dark soul of the group. But Skeleton Tree, largely written and produced after the death of Caves 15-year-old son, is unusually raw in its grief. The lyricism and quavering sound of Cave & the Bad Seeds are strongest when covering bleak themessin, retribution, theatrical moralityand from the slow swell of Distant Sky, featuring the ethereal voice of Else Torp, to the synth-pop I Need You, Skeleton Trees reckoning with that dark place is worth the listen.Charley Locke

Isaiah Rashad, The Sun’s Tirade

Isaiah Rashads second album begins, appropriately, with the track where u atif you heard Cilvia Demo, his 2014 release, youve been asking the same thing. During the two-year hiatus, the next great rapper from Top Dawg Entertainment struggled with Xanax and was almost dropped from the label. Now hes clean, and has channeled the time off into a powerful second album. Labelmate Kendrick Lamars influencevocal layering, schizophrenically varied flowsis obvious on Tirade even before he shows up on Wats Wrong. But Free Lunch and Tity and Dollafeaturing another TDE rapper, Jay Rockare the standout tracks.Joseph Bien-Kahn

Credit: Top Dawg Entertainment

Isaiah Rashads second album begins, appropriately, with the track where u atif you heard Cilvia Demo, his 2014 release, youve been asking the same thing. During the two-year hiatus, the next great rapper from Top Dawg Entertainment struggled with Xanax and was almost dropped from the label. Now hes clean, and has channeled the time off into a powerful second album. Labelmate Kendrick Lamars influencevocal layering, schizophrenically varied flowsis obvious on Tirade even before he shows up on Wats Wrong. But Free Lunch and Tity and Dollafeaturing another TDE rapper, Jay Rockare the standout tracks.Joseph Bien-Kahn

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